08 April, 2014

The TamBrahm Series (Part 9) - Events after the Valaikaapu / Seemantham

(Image courtesy : suga-namasivayam.blogspot.com via Google)
Continuing with The TamBrahm Series, this post is about the customs, traditions, fanfare and the social attitudes that women tend to exhibit towards pregnancy, in "educating" the mother-to-be on what to expect and quite successfully scaring the living daylights out of her.  This is Part 9 of the TamBrahm Series.  Am also posting the links to the earlier 8 posts in the TamBrahm series.
The TamBrahm Series (Part 1) Jaadagam Eduthacha - Horoscope matching and bride viewing.  Click here to view the post.
The TamBrahm Series (Part 2) Nischayathaartham - The Engagement Ceremony.  Click here to view the post.
The TamBrahm Series (Part 3) The Wedding Part 1.  Click here to view the post.
The TamBrahm Series (Part 4) The Wedding Part 2.  Click here to view the post.
The TamBrahm Series (Part 5) Kalyana Saddhi (The wedding feast) and Nalangu (games after the wedding).  Click here to view the post.
The TamBrahm Series (Part 6) Shanti Muhurtham a.k.a The Wedding Night a.k.a Suhaag Raat.  Click here to view the post.
The TamBrahm Series (Part 7) Valaikaapu and Seemantham Part 1.  Click here to view the post.
The TamBrahm Series (Part 8) Valaikaapu and Seemantham Part 2.  Click here to view the post.

Once all the fanfare of the Valaikaapu and Seemantham have settled, I mean once the dust has settled, it is time for the parents and the in-laws to decide upon when the expectant mother can go over to her parents’ house.  I mean, she can go over anytime she chooses to but given the TamBrahms’ penchant for muhurthams, there simply has to be one for this situation too.  After all, she is going over to her parents’ house and she will be staying there for a month or so after her delivery.  More importantly, she is carrying the next generation of the family.  So, finding a muhurtham is an absolute essential.
The family priest is consulted and he, in turn, consults the religious calendar and somehow, a consensus is arrived upon.  I’m making the word consensus sound like some sort of magic because people, trust me, it is.  The word “consensus” is just about as rare between a set of TamBrahm parents and in-laws as would be torrential rain in the deserts of Arabia.  It simply does not happen.  They just have to differ – it is a compulsion of some sort – they have to differ.  Period !!  I’ve always wondered why there is as much of a fuss as there actually is, over this “going to her parents’ place” thing.  There are many instances where the parents live in the adjacent building but that does not, in any way, diminish anything.  People still behave as though the expectant mother is embarking on a journey to Timbaktu, for her delivery.
When the expectant mother leaves her in-laws home for her parents’ home for her first delivery, there is this weird custom of sticking twigs of the curry leaf plant or the neem tree (I can’t seem to remember which one but there definitely are twigs in the picture) in her clothes – not in her, mind you, in her clothes.  Yet again, this is one of the customs which don’t seem to have any logical cause-effect relationship.  Or even if there is one, it is not something people seem aware of.  It has become more a case of “twigs were stuck into my clothes so I’ll stick some into yours” kind of a thing. 
I remember many of those twigs being stuck in many different parts of my clothing until I resembled a plant which started growing with the full gusto of a teen hitting a growth spurt and somewhere along the way, suddenly decided that it did not want to grow any more.  Just like that !  Had some Red Indian tribes seen me then, I would have been elected their chieftain, unopposed.  Simply put, I was a sight !  Just when I thought that was the end of my “make up” session, someone handed me an iron knife.  I kid you not !!  There I was, with a forehead that looked like Morse Code because of the number of dots and dashes of Kumkum on it, with twigs sticking out of many different areas in my clothes, brandishing a large iron knife.  Truth be told, I must have looked like an exemplary cross between an Red Indian Chieftain from some far away tribe and Phoolan Devi !!  Had it been put to the vote, we would have had a hung Parliament, for sure.
I simply did not know what to do with that iron knife and neither did any other person around.  All they knew was that an iron knife was to be given to the expectant mother.  What she was supposed to do with it or more importantly, what she was not supposed to do with it, no one helpfully knew.  I mean, a woman in her eighth month of pregnancy would not really need a large iron knife even for self-defence because even if she had a large knife, defending herself or attacking someone in that condition, would have been a mighty effort.  So yes, that is another one of those traditions, the answer to which no one knows !!
Once at her parents’ place, the expectant mother will have a steady stream of relatives and other mamis from all over the neighbourhood, stopping by to visit her.  Now when they come over to visit a pregnant lady, they always bring goodies with them.  Usually it is some home made savouries and sweets.  The timing could not have been worse, I say.  That late in pregnancy, women usually cut down on food intake because of the acid reflux situation.  If Lady Luck has been rather unkind, they would also have to watch their diet because of gestational diabetes or some such transitory phenomenon.  Now, this lady who has been asked to cut down on salty stuff (because she cannot risk sending her BP shooting up), oily, spicy stuff (because of acid reflux) or sweets (probably gestational diabetes), will have a large variety of goodies on which she can feast her eyes and only her eyes.  It is small wonder then that many women, late in pregnancy, are known to go looking for walls …. To bang their heads on !!
When these helpful mamis come visiting, they also bring along a wealth of experience to share with the expectant mother – whether she likes it or not, whether she wants it or not.  I, for instance, was told my many a mami that labour is so difficult and so painful that it is as good as a rebirth for the woman going through it.  In this instance, me !!  While I’m sure it is said with all good intentions, it does not help at all, at that stage of pregnancy.  As it is, the expectant mothers are quite apprehensive because they simply do not know what to expect.  To top this, to fill their heads with horror stories is not really a good idea.  The fear factor climbs exponentially and since ladies at that stage of pregnancy are not able to sleep much anyway, they have a whole lot of time at their disposal to imagine and conjure up all sorts of situations, most of them involving horrible or terrible pain.  No, it does not help !  What would help, under these circumstances, is having a sane voice of reason, one that does not hide the fact that there is a whole armload of pain waiting but one that also says, in the same breath, that it is very much doable. 
When one is a novice, there is always a fair amount of trepidation, of fear because one is basically stepping into the unknown.  In the case of couples expecting their first baby, this anxiety hits exponential levels because as the due date looms larger, appears closer, it always gives things a “larger-than-life” feeling.  That is when it hits people square in the head, that is when the penny drops, sinks even.  They are bringing a new life into the world and their responsibility as parents does not end with that.  On the contrary, that is when it begins.  The very thought of being responsible for another little human being, his/her well-being, of raising another member of society is quite a huge responsibility and the thought is a very humbling one, to put it mildly. 
Not to sound sexist here, but women experience more anxiety towards the end because if there is one thing any living being wants to avoid, it is pain.  Having their heads filled with innumerable tales of how extremely painful and distressing labour is, does not help.  Yes, expectant mothers (even ones expecting their first baby) do know, people, that labour is painful.  The least other ladies can do is present facts (if they are asked for or called for) without making the whole thing sound like one of those Saas Bahu serials, which are so utterly long drawn out, overly dramatic and excessively painful.
I still remember how many mamis had sworn then that they almost died of the pain, they saw stars in the daylight, they “went to heaven and came back” (now why anyone would want to do that, is beyond me !) and what have you.  Even worse is when the whole thing turns into a lamenting saga on “this is why women should not be born as women”!  Huh ???!!!!  What’s that even supposed to mean ?  Anyway, no disrespect meant, but when one of these sagas would begin, I had trained my brain to switch off.  There were but a few ladies who sounded extremely practical about the whole thing.  What society needs is more ladies like them around.  We need people that actually infuse confidence in expectant mothers, ones that state things for what they are or what to expect rather than overly dramatize the whole issue.
On that rather rebellious note, let’s leave the expectant mother at her parents’ house, for now, where she waits.   We’ll leave the expectant parents as they wait for the magic to happen, wait for the moment when they will touch their newborn baby for the first time, gaze into the baby’s eyes for the first time, when they will stare at those little tiny fingers and toes and feel that little being tugging at their heartstrings with a force they’ve never experienced before, when they will be completely bowled over by the sheer force of nature in all its glory and they will experience love for a little human being as an emotion in its purest form. 

08 March, 2014

A Musical Escapade - A writing prompt (1200 words)

(Pic courtesy : humintell.com via Google)

There was something amiss.  He could not put his finger on it but a part of his brain knew there was something definitely wrong.  “I can’t tax my brains right now” he muttered to himself.  “Getting up so early in the morning during such harsh winters is bad enough” he grumbled.  His hand felt something wet on the pillow and he realized, to his chagrin that he had drooled onto his pillow in his sleep.  A small smile played on his face as he thought about the fabulous dinner he had had the previous evening.  “The food was an absolutely feast – visually and taste wise and the sublime live music just added a whole lot of authenticity to the pleasurable ambience.  That vocalist was so good” he thought. 

That was when the penny dropped.  “Why the silence today ?” he wondered. 

Every single morning, he had awoken to the sounds of devotional music playing.  There were times when it had invoked his ire, especially on days when he’d hit the sack in the wee hours of the morning, only to be woken up a couple of hours later to the strains of M.S.Subalakshmi reciting the Suprabhatam.  Little did he realize how much a part of his life it had become, how ingrained it was in his psyche and his mind, how connected that early morning music was, to a sense of normalcy.

He got out of bed, pulled on his jacket and went over to open the windows.  He almost stumbled over the stack of the issues of Science Today.  “They’ve probably turned the volume down” he thought, as he pushed the windows open and stood there for a couple of seconds, ears straining to hear music.  Nothing.

“Got to find out what’s wrong” he muttered, as he rushed off to brush his teeth.  He set the kettle to boil water and found he couldn’t wait.  It was gnawing at him like a dog gnaws at a bone – that niggling feeling in his mind was relentless, persistent to the point of driving him out of the house without having had his morning dose of caffeine.  That act was another first, because he never ever stepped out of the house without having had his morning coffee.

His footfalls in the corridor were muted because of his soft slippers, as he headed in the direction from which the music usually emanated.  The entire corridor was silent.  There was not as much as a hint of noise anywhere.  The silence was, quite literally, deafening.

He rounded the corner and walked into the lift lobby.  Yet again, there were no signs of movement.  Silence prevailed supreme.  Both lifts were idling away at two difference floors, no one having called them.  He was just about to give up the James Bond mission and go back to the warm confines of his apartment when his eyes caught a large drop of something red.  It was right at the other corner of the lift lobby.  It was a big splotch and as he watched with growing horror, the splotch began to increase in size.  Slowly, very slowly, it started to trickle along the lobby.

“What have I got myself into ?” he thought to himself, alarm rising by the second.  Part of him just wanted to turn tail and run while part of him wanted to find out where that stream of red was coming from and what it was. 

He could literally hear the pounding of his heart, the cold clamminess in his hands and feet as the adventurer in him took over.  His feet moved as though they had a mind of their own and as he rounded the other corner, he saw a large pool of red liquid which was beginning to make its way down the corridor.  It seemed to be coming from the small apartment at the very end of the corridor.  “But that apartment is supposed to be empty” he thought to himself.  “How is the door open then ?”

The door hinges squeaked when he pushed it open.  Daylight was just beginning to break out through the skies and pour into the room through the window.  There was no furniture and the entire room was bare, empty.  The place seemed almost sterile in its emptiness. 

He saw it then.  One gleaming eye.  There was something magnetic about the eye that seemed to be drawing him towards it.  As he got closer, he got a good look at the creature and almost screamed out aloud.  It was a creature, the likes of which had never been seen on Earth before.   He contemplated calling the police when he heard the creature ask for help.  Not quite believing his ears, he carefully leaned further towards the creature and  heard it again. “Help me”, it said, sounding feeble and frail. 

“Who are you and where are you from ?” he asked, warily.  “What are you doing here ?”

“I am a being from another planet” replied the creature.  “We were in the forests, looking for some life fluid when I strayed away from our group.  Some humans saw me and injured me.  I am very close to death and I can be saved only if I reach the mother ship soon” it said. 

There was something so gullible, so trusting about the creature that despite all his common sense telling him to call the police, he relented. 

“How will your mother ship find you ?”  he asked

“Can you help me press these numbers into this keypad ?” asked the creature, holding out what looked like an extremely futuristic handheld device. 

It took just a few minutes before the whole apartment was lit up with an eerie green light.  Right in front of his disbelieving eyes a beam emerged from the ship as it started to pull the creature towards it. 

“Thank you very much” mouthed the creature, its eyes drooping weakly. 

The whole room was suffused with music too – strains of M.S.Subalakshmi floated through the entire room and he realized with a start that it was the Suprabhatam that was playing.  Suddenly, there was a loud jangling noise as the engines of the mother ship started up.

The jangling was getting louder and louder.  He tried putting his hands over his ears, squeezed his eyes shut but the loud sound was relentless.    There was a loud crash and with a start, his eyes flew open.
His fingers touched something wet.  He had drooled on his pillow again.  The familiar surroundings wrapped around him like a coat of cosy known comfort. 

He could remember everything with distinct clarity, though.  “Was it really a dream ?” he wondered.  

“Probably was” he muttered. 

He had fallen asleep reading the Special Edition of Science Today – An Alien Special, they called it.

“Nice dream, though” he thought to himself with a smile.  “Wait till my colleagues hear it”.

He went into the kitchen, craving a cup of coffee.  That was the first thing he had, every single morning.  His fingers closed around the handle of the kettle. He pulled the lid open to fill water and jolted, startled beyond comprehension.

The water in the kettle was boiling hot.


25 February, 2014

Parenting - My two cents !

(Image courtesy : healertoday.com via Google)

The article by Veena Venugopal titled “Stop the lies about parenting” (link here) has been making the rounds on social networks over the past couple of days but I got around to reading it just today.

Ms.Venugopal has rather aptly and pithily presented her point of view about why “parenting is not all that it’s cracked up to be”.  She has stated that there is a lot of exhaustion involved through the process of parenting and that none of it is even remotely blissful.  The only bliss, she states, is the one that parents experience 9 months before the baby is born.  She has also put forth her objections to the manner in which women are forced by society to don the robes of parenthood because society puts pressure on people to have children.  She has objected to women being looked down upon or being ostracised because they choose not to have children. 

While all of these are her personal, frank opinions and I do agree with the second bit about society being wrong in putting pressure on people to have children, I think she’s crossed the line and taken things too far in making a lot of assumptions about parenting and motherhood.  She is correct in saying that there are a lot of couples out there who have consciously decided that parenting is not their cup of tea and ergo have decided not to go in for a child.  Yes, there are indeed many such couples in society and I do respect their decisions, their attitudes and I doff my hat to them because they know exactly what they want or don’t want and they stand by it. 

As regards Ms. Venugopal’s article, while it is fine to put forth what one thinks, what makes this write up unfair is the way in which parenting and motherhood have been generalised in the negative. 

I am a mom to two kids.  Yes, I have known exhaustion as they grew up and as I was the primary caretaker right from the time they were babies through their toddlerhood days through their early childhood days and so on.  I have known the bone weary exhaustion that she talks about in her article.  I have known the sleepless nights that she talks about in her article.  For that matter, all mothers have, all parents have – at some point of time in their tryst with parenting.  There have been many times when I’ve been at my wit’s end, there have been umpteen times when I have not known what to do because no parenting manual prepares you or tutors you about what to do in a given situation, yet there has not been a single moment in my life that I have regretted having stepped into parenthood.  I am not glorifying motherhood here, I am simply stating a fact.

Yet again, I wonder why she assumes that everybody who steps into parenthood does so because of celebrity endorsements or marketing slogans.  If one does feel the pulse among the general populace now, there are many couples in urban areas and yes, a smaller number in the rural areas too, who decide when to step into parenthood.  There are people actively practicing contraception, there are couples planning their families in terms of when they think they would be ready for the responsibility that a baby / child would put on their shoulders, there are many people out there who plan in the financial sense too – get an education fund going and stuff like that before they step into parenthood.  What I’m trying to say here is that people, for the most part, are well aware of the responsibilities that a baby / child comes with.

If they’ve decided not to step into parenthood for five years, if they’ve decided not to have children for a certain number of years, until they are ready to take on the responsibilities that parenting brings along with it, the author should know that it takes a lot more than newspapers that smell like babies bottoms, to have them rushing into having babies.  For the most part, it does not work that way anymore.  People are a lot more sensible than she’s given them credit for, parents included.

Yes, I do fully agree when she says that parenting is about sleepless nights, parenting is about sick babies, parenting is about staying up with a cranky colicky baby, parenting is about changing diapers, sterilising bottles and yes parenting is about getting pooed on, peed on and puked on (she missed those bits in her write up).   What might be difficult for the author to believe, given the mindset she has clearly displayed, is that parents really take these things in their stride because they know it is a package deal.  With those little fingers and toes that reiterate ones faith in humanity to those toothless smiles that definitely make your heart do a crazy flip, parents are well aware of the crap end of the deal too.  No parent out there is trying to paint a picture that is all roses, they are well aware of the thorns too – only thing being stepping on a thorns along the way does not make them whimper, cry and question the sensibility of their decision to step into parenthood. 

End of the day, parents are, for the most part, aware that parenthood is indeed a package deal.  The little nitty gritties that parenthood is going to throw is something no one can foresee.  Yet, through it all, parents know they walk a tightrope and they are perfectly aware of the responsibilities that parenting brings along with it.  Whenever one steps into anything new in life, they are stepping into the unknown.  When one changes jobs, changes careers, moves house, moves to a different country, decides to study further or any such situation, one is stepping into the unknown.  Yes indeed, like the author says, in all these situations there is always an out but in parenting there is none.  True but then we human beings are made of much sterner stuff, we are a lot more resilient than throwing in the towel just because the odds happen to be stacked against us.  So why should parenting be any different ?  Change is the only constant in life and to grow, one needs to change and adapt to situations.  Face the situation head on is what most people do rather than opt to run away from it all, foreseeing a challenge

The author, I must say, is rather grossly mistaken when she states that mommy bloggers are the latest entrants, in her language, to the category of people trying to make motherhood sound all glamorous.  If one takes a good look around at parenting websites or “mommy blogs” as they are called, one sees a whole plethora of articles.  Also, it is no longer just mommy bloggers, there are a lot many daddies too, who blog about parenting.  So, it is wrong on the part of the author to make this a sexist issue as well. 

Yes, parents do gush over their babies on their blogs but that is not it.  There is a lot more, on these platforms, on these websites.  One finds parents seeking advice, one finds parents sharing their views and opinions on matters related to child rearing and child development.  Issues relating to schooling, education, cultural divides, speech, reading … there is a whole world, a whole library of articles out there.  Yet again, when parents speak from experience, they are not putting themselves on a higher pedestal accorded to them by parenthood, as they author suggests in her article.  They are merely contributing to a large pool of suggestions, advice or their say, their views in a discussion.

Yes indeed, like the author says, reality is what happens outside the blog but that in no ways means what happens inside the blog is not reality.  It is.  Yes indeed, like the author says, parenting is about wondering if it is a jacket day or a jacket plus sweater day.  Parenting is about worrying and wondering if one’s child will be able to cope with the demands and the pressures of the outside world.  Parenting is about angst, it is about worry and anguish over ones kids just as much as it is about the happiness and the mushiness.  

Parenting is about being tough with a child to ensure that they learn to be responsible and disciplined just as much as parenting is about being lenient and forgiving, for these are important values in life too.  Parenting is about wiping the tears off your child’s face when they are hurt just as much as it is about laughing with your child over something silly and joyful.  Parenting is about getting hurt in the process just as much as it is about healing and learning to carry on.  Parenting is about the agonising decision of whether to be a stay at home mom or to be a working mom but parenting is also about learning to make your peace with your decision.  Parenting is about being a steadying force but on the other hand, parenting is also about deciding when to rock the boat and help and teach children to cope with the upheavals.  Parenting is just as much about holding your toddlers’ hand and teaching them to walk as it will be when they hold your hand and help you up in your old age.  Parenting is just as much about holding on to a bicycle so your child does not topple over as it is about letting that bicycle go and letting your child learn that wobbling, falling down, dusting themselves off, getting back in the saddle and learning to balance are all a part of the very same game. 

End of the day, parenting or parenthood is not something I'd indolently dismiss or compare to something like swimming in the Amazon or high altitude mountain climbing.  While those may be life altering moments, parenthood is much more - it is an emotion that grips you with a fierceness you've not known existed.  It definitely has its moments of highs and lows but to say that people get into parenthood to seek validation of some sort, far from the truth.  

That moment when tears turn into a smile, that moment when your little one slips his / her hand into yours, when the body language translates loud and clear in saying "I trust you", those impromptu hugs that say "I love you", your child knowing that you are there for him / her when he / she needs you the most, is all the validation every parent needs.  

In my books, these little things are indeed bliss.  

21 January, 2014

AAP - it does have an image. Does it have a concrete plan ?

(Pic courtesy : english.manoramaonline.com via Google)
The Aam Aadmi Party astounded everybody last December, by winning 28 seats in the New Delhi polls.  They virtually made the ruling Congress party eat dust with the Congress being reduced to a paltry 8 seats in the elections.  People were ecstatic, for there was actually a hope that there was indeed a viable alternative to the existing Congress / UPA (who have proved themselves to be exceedingly inept at governance) and the BJP (who, represented by an authoritarian fascist, religious zealot, is sure to send the country spiralling downwards with his caste based fanaticism).  AAP loomed large, their larger than life picture giving hope to millions as a possible alternative to the two existing political parties.
Right now, to state that India has a functioning government, would be a joke of the highest order.  Simply put, right now, there is no governance in the country, there has been none for quite some time now.  Politicians and their close relatives are busy making money and filling their pockets with the various cock eyed schemes that have been in the offing without any benefits whatsoever to the common man.  Corruption reigns supreme in virtually any government body, so much so that it has almost become an accepted form of getting things to work.  Ministers and their relatives are breaking laws with impunity, safe in the knowledge that they will not be held accountable or even questioned over their dubious actions.  The country continues to be unsafe for women, with things not having changed in the least bit, even after the large number of protests and the hue and cry that the women raised in public.  The scariest aspect of this whole thing is that despite all these major problems and shortcomings, no one seems to be bothered in the least.  Common man suffers, the poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer.  The crevasse is wider and deeper than ever.
Arvind Kejriwal did strike the proper chords with the Indian public which is totally and thoroughly sick and disgusted with the country being mired and stuck with a government that turns a blind eye towards virtually everything, with the country being sucked into this bottomless pit of corruption.   In the light of all this, AAP barged on to the political scene, pretty much like the proverbial breath of fresh air.  About a month later, the question that is now being asked is “Where is the AAP headed, does it have any or atleast some sense of direction ?”.
His attempt at holding a Janta Darbar ended up in absolutely chaos and confusion.  But then again, why a Janta Darbar ?  This whole drama reminded me of one of those Akbar Birbal comic books – where the praja go to the king to air their grievances and seek a solution.  In the 21st century, does India or more importantly, does the common man in the country really need to be taken back to this centuries old custom ?  The ruler and the ruled ?  Is that the image AAP really wishes to portray.  This whole Janta Darbar thing sounds like something that would suit the likes of Narendra Modi – who consider themselves a God given gift to humanity in general and India in particular. Modi has deluded himself into believing that he is a god like entity and that he has his praja or “his people” under him.  Coming from the AAP, especially given the fact that Kejriwal is an educated IIT graduate with a number of educated people supporting him, this whole Janta Darbar thing simply reeked of populism.
The question foremost on the minds of the people now is whether AAP has any long term plan of action for the country.  A month into power, the AAP still looks at the “agitation mode” towards sorting out issues and problems plaguing the country.  Yesterday, they almost brought Delhi to a state of chaos whilst protesting “AAP style”, demanding the dismissal of five policemen who refused to follow orders to bust a drug and prostitution racket.  While the sentiment towards bringing corrupt officials to book is right, the mode of implementation leaves a lot to be desired.  Four of Delhi’s metro stations had to be shut down yesterday, traffic spilled over onto the streets and who ended up paying and suffering – the Aam Aadmi – the common man. 
One is pretty much sure that most of their actions stem from the fact that the LS elections are but a few months away.  Arvind Kejriwal and the AAP built their premise on the basis of an image – that of a corruption free country but that image is fast fading from the minds of the people, the common man while they battle with the hardships of life on a daily basis.  While providing an image as a platform is good, what is also essential is to back up that image with a well-planned, well laid out system with visions which aim at the long term picture.   
Unfortunately, given the pace at which news travels in today’s world, thanks to the manifold social media websites that are the lifeline of communication today,  Mr.Kejriwal does not have the luxury of time or of a honeymoon period in which to prove his ability to streamline the political and governmental structures in the country, towards a corruption free India. 
I am sure his intentions are good but whether Mr.Kejriwal and the AAP will be able to follow through in terms of actually putting plans into action, with an efficient working system in place, without letting power get to their heads and corrupt their minds, remains to be seen. 

20 January, 2014

Nirbheek - Is a gun the solution to rape avoidance ?

(Pic courtesy : scmp.com via Google)
I read this article in The Times of India the other day, with a growing sense of dismay.  No – am not talking of accidents, murders or rapes.  Those seem to be happening as routinely as clockwork, even now.  I’m talking of Nirbheek (I believe that’s what it is called).  Nirbheek is said to be India’s first gun for women, a lightweight .32 bore pistol and is being touted as something that could produce “the element of surprise that is sure to scare the life out of most of the persons who attempt rape”.
Is that the solution ?  Really ?
To be honest, the thought scares me rather than infusing a sense of confidence that it might help the situation. 
In a country like ours, the problem lies not with the women but with the men who consider it their birth right to molest or rape women at will.  In a country like ours, the problem lies not with the rape survivors but with society on a whole, for, it still remains a patriarchal society that discounts the actions of men and wrongfully transfers the accountability onto the women.  In a country like ours, the problem lies with the fact that women are still, for all practical purposes and sundry, secondary citizens and not for a second of their lives are they allowed to forget that.  In a country like ours, the problem, simply put, lies in the fact that people, men and women alike, in more ways than one, still help feed the rape culture.
For women in India, rape is not the only thing they need to worry about.  There are countless other things.  Will having a gun help a woman who is being forced to undergo an abortion because she carries a female foetus within herself ?  Will having a gun help a woman who gets nudged, felt up or pinched in any of the public transport systems in the country ?  Will having a gun help a woman who is leered at on the roads or will it help one who has her bottom slapped or her breasts fondled by pathetic examples of men who scoot past on motorbikes or bicycles ?  Will having a gun help a woman who has songs sung to her by groups of men (songs like “chalti hai kya nau se bara” and others are notoriously infamous) in any given corner of a road or the bus stops or the train stations  ?  It is not just rape that the womenfolk in India are at a risk from.  It is all of the above too.  All of these too, leave women feeling violated.  Unfortunately, these things are pretty much “sanctioned” by our society as “unavoidable” or “better than what could otherwise have happened”.  Therein, lies the main problem. 
Societal attitudes is where it all needs to begin.  Menfolk and womenfolk need to realize and more importantly, accept, that they are equally to blame in fostering this culture.  People need to realize that actions have to bring with them, accountability.  Women need to start respecting feminity and drawing strength from it, rather than looking upon it as a curse and turning upon womenfolk themselves.  People need to take a long, good look at the so-called, self-proclaimed godmen in our country, who vilify women in the name of religion or even better, as a form of medicine or a cure.  What is needed is an approach aimed at the grassroots, not a 500 gram titanium alloy gun in a velvet box.
Take a good look at the USA.  People are allowed to own firearms, they are allowed to carry firearms for their own protection.  How much safer has it made things there ?  Has it helped prevent crimes in general or against women in specific ?  One look at the statistics and the answer is more than clear. 
Another very scary prospect, if India goes ahead with Nirbheek, is the accessibility that common man would have, to a firearm.  Thefts, pickpocketing being so very common an occurrence in the country, the possibility of guns being stolen and misused, is mind numbing, truth be told.  How about guns falling into the hands of children ?  The USA still remains a prime example of the number of things that can go wrong with the common man being allowed to carry arms.  Yet, this is seen touted as a solution to rape in a country as populous as ours. 
Even in this 21st century, so-called “developed” world of today, where fingers are bizarrely pointed at rape survivors instead of the perpetrators, the focus, unfortunately almost always, completely shifts from the committer of the crime to the survivor.  People and media alike, have made it a habit to feed on tidbits of information which are increasingly being viewed as “tasty morsels”, thus shifting accountability from the wrongdoer to the offended.    
Over the past, women have been given countless number of inane “solutions” to avoid rape - don’t drink, don’t go out late at night, don’t have boyfriends, don’t dress provocatively are some examples.  Let’s not add to that list, shall we ?  Let’s not set out one more piece of advice for 
“rape avoidance” towards the women in the country saying “carry guns in your handbags”.  

04 January, 2014

The Precipice - A 300 word micro fiction

(Image courtesy : familysecuritymatters.org via Google)

“Just one step, just one step” echoed the voices inside his head.  He could taste the fear at the back of his throat, his head buzzed. 

“There is no way out” said the same voices, inside his head.  “Just one more step and you shall know peace like you never have before” said the same voices, sounding taunting and mollifying at the same time.  He knew too, that there was no other way out of the situation he had gotten himself into.  What was supposed to have been one round at the casino had gone on and before he knew, he was neck deep in debt.  He needed money and he needed it quick. 

I will be done and over with this, once and for all, he thought.  He had no choice.  He could feel the pressure building behind his head.  His temples would soon start pounding and the aches would begin.  I will put an end to this once and for all.  Just get it over with and thats that he thought to himself.

Steeling himself for what he had to do, he stood at the edge of the precipice, trying not to look at the ground below.

“Do it” commanded the voice inside his head.  “Do it, for you do have no other choice” resonated the voice. The pounding increased, drowning out all vestiges of reasoning left in him.

 “Do it” commanded the voice, stronger and more authoritative, this time.   Unable to go against its wishes and command, his face red, his lips quivering, his head pounding, tasting the bitter rush of adrenaline at the back of his throat, he jumped off the precipice.

“Cut. That's a wrap. You sure make one hell of a stuntman“ yelled the director, as he hit the huge airbag on the ground. 

31 December, 2013

Laguna Junior Christmas Choir - They rocked !!

(Image courtesy : scmp.com via Google)

This year too, like they did last year during Christmas, Santa’s little elves did their bit towards the community.  This year, the Laguna Junior Christmas Choir consisted of more than forty children.  They practiced Christmas carols in the evening, during those couple of hours that is normally very precious to them because it is usually their time to play with their friends in the park.  There were no questions asked, no complaints, as they got together as frequently as three to four times every week, to practice caroling. 

They had able teachers who guided them during their caroling sessions in Maria Fernandes, Anne Challu and Binnie Patcha, all of whom had to take time out from their own busy schedules too, for this good deed. 

On the 21st and 22nd of December, 2013, more than forty of Santa’s little elves in Laguna City, Lam Tin, went house to house, caroling and collecting donations for Operation Santa Claus.  The children truly exhibited "the spirit of giving"  by opting to collect donations for OSC, in lieu of the gifts they would otherwise have received from each household, after caroling.  Their enthusiasm knew no bounds and it reflected in the message of cheer and joy they were instrumental in spreading throughout Laguna City.  It was lovely to watch faces break out into wide grins at the sight of this enthusiastic bandwagon of carolers and the Christmas caroling this year was such a resounding success, that people are already looking forward to the event next year. 

As parents, we are often found telling our children that “sharing is caring”.  The spirit of sharing is especially exemplified during this season – the Christmas season and it is never too early to start teaching our kids to care for people who are less fortunate.  This event will also, hopefully, teach the kids to appreciate all the good things that they have in their lives and make them realize how fortunate they are.

Mother Teresa once said “It is not how much we give but how much love we put into giving”.   These little elves exemplified that spirit.  They are living proof that ordinary people, no matter how young they are, can make an extraordinary difference in the world of today by reaching out to the community, in their own way, by their own means.

Here’s to the little elves and here’s wishing all of you a festive season filled with an abundance of cheer, joy, good health, peace and love.